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Leading with Empathy

What a parent can learn from their kids.

By the time I move into my new house I will have been of no fixed abode for 4 1/2 months. During that time, along with my wife and two daughters, I have lived with friends and family. There have been some benefits to this nomadic lifestyle but also many challenges. As I prepared to leave my parents house last night for another trip I began to get quite stressed. This trip would include seven different locations over the next two weeks culminating in a week working in Australia. I'm not the most organised of people so planning for all of this pushes my buttons.

Whilst packing my eldest daughter came into the bedroom eager to show me something. After asking for some space several times I eventually shouted at her to leave me alone and she left the room crying. Later on that evening as I put both my girls to bed, despite it being late and having had a long day they were not settling down. They both got out of bed several times complaining variously of being hot, thirsty or needing the toilet. Each excuse pushed my patience further and I dealt with them either with a curt solution (well take your pyjamas off then) or a stern "Get back into bed!" I won't see them now for ten days and I chose my last few moments with them to be ones when I was angry and unkind.

Reflecting on this situation this morning I realised that when I'm at my worst with my kids I'm either reacting to their behaviour badly because I'm tired and grumpy or I'm trying to find solutions so I can cut short their interruption and can get back to whatever I was doing quickly. For me the hardest leadership job of all is the one we have as parents. I wonder what impact it would have on my relationship with my daughters if I could meet them with a much greater level of empathy in these moments, seeking simply to hear and understand what's happening for them, rather than trying to solve it quickly or reacting badly to it. Easier said than done I fear!

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